My husband was strongly influenced by the Anabaptists in his teen years. My father was raised Quaker. Nevertheless, I have avoided the popular Amish trend in Christian fiction as a nostalgic desire to return to a simpler time and avoid dealing with modern reality. Dale Cramer’s Paradise Valley is not that.
A 1921 Ohio law required Amish families to send their children to public schools where they must cut their hair and dress in “Englisher” clothing—a plan which would effectively wipe out the Amish community in a generation. The arguments in this part of the book sounded disturbingly like modern discussions of home schooling vs. ‘godless humanistic classrooms’.
Caleb Bender’s response to government pressure was to lead a group moving their families to Paradise Valley in Mexico. Dale Cramer’s great grandfather was the patriarch of a similar community, and although few records survive of that experiment, he obviously identifies strongly with their faith, ideals and struggles.
Yet Cramer wrestles with real issues in a post-9/11 world. Can violence be realistically resisted with non-violence? Post-revolution Mexico is rife with decommissioned soldiers turned bandits. The old world where Spanish blood ruled, and Mexico’s original inhabitants were despised has been turned on its head. The Amish win friends by treating all their neighbors with respect and integrity, but their non-violence makes them vulnerable. And can they sustain it when those they love are threatened?
The story is not primarily romance although there are romantic plots lines—several, in fact, since Caleb Bender has several daughters. Some are satisfied in this first installment of The Daughters of Caleb Bender series; some are left in question. But your heart will be drawn to each of these strong young women.
Dale Cramer and his wife attended the same Monterey writing conference I did in October. I found them both warm and articulate. I already admired Dale’s writing. Now I eagerly look forward to the rest of this series. They have something to say to us in the twenty-first century whether our dress be plain or fancy.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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